Sunday, 28 June 2015

Getting Serious.

Writing is a little like falling in love.

You meet writing for the first time. 

You dive in recklessly and with abandon, without any real aspiration other than just seeing if you CAN. Seeing if what's in your head looks good on paper in the first place. It's a heady feeling. You are the consummate artist, tapping frantically into your laptop in the back of a coffee shop, fueled by an irrepressible idea and too much caffeine.

But as with any love story, things don't go smoothly...

Conversation is always a little awkward on the first date. 

Where do those pesky quotation marks go anyway? Do you start a new line? Hit the tab key for dialogue? What do you say after or before or in the middle of the conversation other than...'he/she said'?! Why is this so complicated?

On the second date, you start getting a few niggling doubts. 

Do you really have a plot? How long is it going to take to get to THE SCENE that's been burning a hole in your mental pocket since you typed the first word? Can you even make it that far? And is it lying or laying? Really. That just doesn't look right.



Then...


A friend reveals your writing's true feelings for you. 

You finally pull together enough courage to actually SHOW your writing to someone, and they come back to you raving and saying that they LOVE IT and please WRITE MORE and I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE SO TALENTED. It is a revelation. The relationship takes a whole new serious tone. This isn't just playing around with a few ideas and paddling in the shallow end of the writing pool. Now you're considering getting serious with writing.

So, you take a bit leap and...

You bring your writing home to meet the parents (a.k.a. real reviewers). 

Oh. Not good. They really REALLY disapprove. A debrief reveals that out of an entire chapter, one partial sentence might truly show promise. Your writing has been tried and found wanting.

You consider breaking up with writing. It was obviously not meant to be. You turn to your good friends quilting and Facebook as a focus to get your mind off of the train wreck that is your relationship with writing. Quilting lets you tell sad stories over a glass of wine and doesn't judge you. You decide it's all over with writing.

But...

Writing just won't leave you alone. 

It keeps bugging you with new story ideas. New characters wandering around your head wanting to be let out. What has writing done to you? What horrific brainwashing has taken place?



So...

You confront writing, and agree that you want to go steady. 

You write not one story, but two. You're hitting 2000 words a day, despite your full time day-job. You buy Scrivener so you and writing can spend more quality time together. You start a blog to tell the world about the journey you and writing are on in your relationship. You start to tweet with other people who are also in love with writing, and laugh together about the foibles and struggles of being in love with writing.

Then...

Writing gets down on one knee and asks if you want to make this relationship...permanent.


And you panic.

You run away. Far away.


You are too busy. You have no time. Your laptop has a virus. Writing has so many other lovers, why would it need you? And how would you make a living, married to writing? Everyone knows there is no money in it.


You and writing 'take a break'. 


So, now what? The fence is a painful place, especially when you find yourself perched on it for nearly a year. You halfheartedly check twitter every few weeks. You occasionally pick up one of the twelve stories you started and never finished. You change a few words here or there. Change them back again. Watch 'Breaking Bad' from end-to-end. Eat a lot of ice cream.



*Siiiiiiiiiiigh*

You decide to go see writing. Just to say 'Hi.'


You look deep into writing's eyes (stay with me, no matter how thin the metaphor is stretching here). You take a deep breath.

Okay, It's time. No more denying how you feel. Let's do this thing.



Ryan Gosling memes courtesy of  http://goslinggetswriters.tumblr.com/
Balloon image Copyright: federicofoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Why I Haven't Blogged for a Year (and other excuses).

That was a bit of a shock. Checked my blog and saw that next month will be a full year since I blogged anything at all!

There is a good reason.

I moved countries. Well, both me and my husband moved countries. Together (of course). We have left the damp streets of London, England for the sun and heat of Austin, Texas. The whole process started at least three years ago, heated up when we applied for the Green Card Lottery in 2012 (better known as the Diversity Visa), and went stratospheric when we were granted the chance for an interview. When we were actually granted the visas in January this year, we went into a sort of deep shock and have only just started to thaw out now, five months later.

Our life has been in utter limbo for nearly a year and a half. Emotionally/psychologically for a lot longer than that. We are now finally landed (but barely a month ago), in Texas, and are up to our eyeballs with the whole getting-settled process which includes buying everything we need from scratch and having no friends. Oh, that and I have to find a job. Like...yesterday.

Are you still writing??
Yes. Yes, I am. I actually finished a draft of a story that hit over 100k in word-count, which shocked me, I can tell you. I'm now left with the quandary of what exactly to do with this mammoth tome, as it clearly needs some editing down. That and it's the raciest thing I've ever written and I'm not sure it's exactly what I want to lead with when submitting to publishers! Eventually I will take the leap and put the, "But what will your MOTHER think?!" issue behind me. Eventually.

What's next?
I need to get my feet on the ground. Get a job. Move into our house. Find furniture to sit on/lie on/cook on. But as much as I tell myself this, there are already two new characters running around inside my head making eyes at each other and whispering all sorts of stuff I should probably write down before they find someone else to write it for them. So...who knows. Writing is one of those things that doesn't ever, entirely let you go.

Oh, also what is next is another 'Kingpin' taco at Torchy's. Because they are AMAZING. You should try one.



Monday, 24 June 2013

Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) - Mistakes of a Rookie Writer

Yes, so, I thought I'd get some objective feedback on the first portion of one of the first stories I wrote. Second draft. Much snappier than the first. Was certain it would get some sort of positive feedback. I mean, my writing isn't Man Booker Prize-worthy, but it's better than some books I've PAID for, right? Right?

No. Not so much.

So before I bury my poor wounded writer's head in the sand and follow that insane impulse to NEVER WRITE AGAIN EVER EVER AGAIN EVER...I thought it best that I just write down a couple of things I need to learn from the whole experience. Maybe they'll be useful to someone else, or at the very least it will help me remember (as if I could forget).

1. TSTL

My first lesson was on the acronym 'TSTL'. New one for me, but a quick Google session told me that every time someone was calling my leading lady 'TSTL', it meant she was 'Too Stupid To Live'. As in, 'How on earth did she get from being born to being an adult without accidentally getting herself KILLED. Killed from sheer STUPID.' Other words used to back up the 'TSTL' label were such glowing descriptors as 'twit' and 'such a ditz'.

Now, I'm not about to go into detail about the actual piece (particularly as it's still partaking in a ceremonial burning on the back patio and LET'S JUST NOT GO THERE), but here are a few more things I'm taking away from the experience.

2. FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT

Your character is allowed to be human, make mistakes, and be flawed. But (apparently) you cannot show all their WORST traits in the first two pages without turning at least a few readers into haters. They want to get pulled into the life of someone they can either relate to or at the very least, vaguely respect. So if all I give them is a series of reasonably dumb mistakes and nothing much in the way of redeeming qualities, apparently ...that's a turn-off. Being dramatic is not enough. Being dramatic and DUMB is bad.

This might seem entirely logical and obvious when you read it. You're nodding to yourself now. You're thinking, "Nah, I'd never do that." But how easy is it to forget that we know our characters intimately - especially if we've written the entire book and know their whole story. How easy is it to forget that our character still has to make a first impression on a completely 'cold' audience who don't yet know about our character's winsome smile or quirky laugh or extended butterfly collection? First pages do sorta have to be all about that first introduction. A polite how-do-you-do, or at least NOT a display of all your beloved character's worst traits. Like I did.

3. IF YOU THINK YOU'VE CUT ENOUGH BACK-STORY...YOU HAVEN'T

I really thought I had this down. I'd read enough excruciating 'laundry-list' intros to books that I thought I knew what I was doing. I cut a lot out. I thought I'd been brutal. I wove subtle details in. I thought I'd been clever. But instead of the gripping wash of introduction to my heroine's dilemma that I'd intended, it mainly just came across as navel gazing. Too much thinking. Not enough doing. WAY too not-enough-doing. So, if you think you've been sparing? Cut more. Snip snip. You have a whole book to bore people with the details. Or at least...I do.

4. GO WITH YOUR GUT / STOP OVERTHINKING

Ironically, but probably not very surprisingly, the one line that someone picked out as being reasonably on the way to showing a tiny glimmer of potential was one of my weird, out-of-rear-brain-nowhere things I just chucked in and shrugged about. Wasn't bad enough to cut, so I left it in. And THAT is what they liked.

So often I catch myself writing the way I think writing SHOULD BE. As in...not obeying the words on the tip of my brain's tongue (that sounded weird...but I'm going with it), but reformatting the whole thing until it sounds the way writing is 'supposed' to sound. And in the process, the pure voice of it gets muddied. Muffled. Stamped out. Out goes the visceral. Out goes the instinctual. If there's one thing I am really taking away from this is...give myself permission to BE MYSELF.

That might take a while. Work In Progress.


Lastly...

5. I SURVIVED


That's all.




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